for the Sorrel Stud and Me
kids, my buddy T-Bone and I werent half-bad with horses.
From handling our own mounts, to training the herd at the riding
stable where we worked, we did ok with them. One day that skill,
plus my youthful sense of invincibility, set me to have a challenge
with a half-crazy sorrel stud that near killed me.
spunky and unpredictable, the spirited stallion responded all
right to guiding and goinghe loved to runhe just never
got whoa in his understanding. One late summer morning,
just to show out a little because I was young, spunky and unpredictable,
I told T-Bone to watch me because I was going to ride that horse
with nothingno saddle or bridlea feat we had both
done often on gentler horses. My bravado at thirteen, outpaced
my common sense by a good ten lengths. And T-Bone knew it, as
shown by his grinning as he held the sorrel steady while I hopped
up on him. As I mounted, the studs eyes flared as he jerked
free and stirred around nervously. When I had him pointed right,
I clucked and squeezed in with my feet. He reared and in three
jumps was in a dead run.
his mane cut flat-top short, there was nothing to hold. He twisted
and crow-hopped as he ran with me hanging around his neck, my
legs tight around his belly. As he was nearing a ditch, I figured
he would have to jump it at full speed, or plant his hooves like
stakes in the dirt and slingshot me over his head at thirty miles
bounced and held on and reached up and clenched the only thing
I could, his right ear. I pulled and twisted that ear and was
able to get just enough leverage for him to cut to the right and
slam to a stop in four hard bounces, when I flipped head over
heels and over his head and landed square on my back in a poof
of July-dry Texas dust.
bolted through my entire body, and I kept my eyes closed tight
as the dust cloud blanketed me. Flat on the ground, I couldnt
move at first except to open my eyes. All I could see was a huge,
upside-down horse nose, three inches from mine, snorting and sniffing.
For an odd moment neither of us moved even a blink. His black
eyes stared at me curiously, his ears erect and his nostrils wide,
and so close his hot breaths were blowing dust off my face.
a jerk, he raised his head, pawed the ground and nickered. Then
the young stud reared once as he took off in a tear, kicking dust
up again. He ran full out across the pasture, bucking and kicking
and breaking wind and whinnying the exact way studs do right after
they breed and are feeling plum giddy with satisfaction. And as
if he knew how to add insult, he ran back to the catch pen as
T-Bone opened the gate for him. It would be a painful walk back
had folded upright when T-Bone yelled from across the way and
asked if I was still alive. I was not sure. It took a little bit,
while I figured on an answer. Dont know . . . yet.
some effort, I was able to get to my feet and take a few steps.
Eventually I was able to straighten up better and limp on back
toward the barn, cussing low and to myself, kicking a rock or
two in my path, and hurting inside and out. A fat horned toad
darted in front of me, stopped, and swiveled his thorny head sideways
and up at me. I slowed and thought just a second about kicking
it down the trail a bit too, but thought better and stepped over
him and hobbled on.
had the horses in the pen and was bending over to check a hoof
on his horse when he saw me coming. I could feel his grinning
as he said out loud without looking up, Bout time
you got to work, since I reckon these horses aint learned
to saddle themselves yet, and I doubt theyd do it if they
throat was dry and I thought how good water would be, but I dared
not stop for fear the pain would keep me from moving again. I
said, Dont wait on me to show you how to saddle the
first one, as I walked past him and into the tack room and
straight for the bridle hanging on the last wall nail on the left.
It was a Mexican-made, one-ear bridle, with long shanks and a
high curved bit designed for high-spirited horses. I went in the
catch pen with the bridle held behind me. The sorrel was easy
enough to catch though; maybe he figured I would cause him no
problems. I adjusted the bridle on him to have the right play.
As I swung up on him I groaned but wanted to scream. There was
a fire in my left ribs.
was at the gate. With an upward hand motion I said, Okay,
T-Bone. He stepped in to wave his arms and shoo back two
horses that were near the gate. Then he opened it up enough for
me to ride through. As we went by him in a fast trot, he tossed
me a braided quirt made from pieces of old plow lines. In one
motion I caught it with my right hand and came down with a hard
crack on the horses flank.
It more spooked that red horse than hurt him, I figured, as I
knew he didnt see anything in my hand when I got on him.
I held on and got in rhythm with him as he jumped into his run.
T-Bone let out a long howl and shouted, Warm him, son! Warm
over his neck, I raised up every few seconds to remind the stud
of the quirt I had. I rode him over the spot where we had parted
ways before. He kicked up the same dust we had stirred up earlier,
only this time I made him jump that ditch. There was a silence
as my Pegasus was airborne briefly. We landed with a ka-thump
and I slid halfway up his neck. I scooted back and warmed him
again to let him know the plans were the same on this side of
stirred up a dust cloud as we streaked across the dry pasture
and the hot blowing air burned my eyes as we moved. I thought
of a vigilant horned toad opening his straight mouth and lifting
his thorny head in feeling the quake of us coming before he could
see us. I wondered if he was there before when we were running
through the area, or if he was near when I bounced on the ground
and stirred up a dust storm for him, and he must have figured
the area was getting entirely too populated with large animals
that stomped and bounced all over the place.
sorrel and I got doused as I ran him across Blue-Hole creek in
four long leaps. He slipped on some mossy rocks and stumbled sideways,
but caught himself, throwing me half-off the other side. With
just a hand on his neck and a knee across his withers, I pulled
and wriggled back up on him and we set off again at full speed.
I pushed him hard through the woods, as we were scraped by limbs
and dodging trees until we made it to the hill area. Then I ran
him some more, then slow-loped, then trotted, then stopped and
made him back up much longer and faster than he wanted since he
couldnt see where he was headed and had to trust that we
werent backing into some hole or saw briars. Then I repeated
the routine and mixed things up and did a little of fast and slow,
forward and backward.
We jumped a big jackrabbit and set out after him for the sheer
sport of it. As we were gaining on the jacks ten-foot bounds,
it zigged left into some thick undergrowth of honeysuckle and
saw briars. When I jerked the studs head toward that thicket,
that sorrel must have believed we were going in there after that
rabbit. I believe he would have done it too, but I stopped him
sharply right before it, as he reared and danced and wanted to
stopped a while and I heard nothing but our own deep breathing,
in and out, together as if we were one. I felt my legs expanding
with each of his quick breaths. He was steaming and white with
sweat around my legs and on his neck, back and flanks. Sweat drops
flung off him when I patted his neck and told him he was a dandy.
Then I raised my wet hand and wiped and marked my own brow. And
the sweet smell of honeysuckle blended with the briny smell of
wet horse and I drew it in deeply through my nose and it hurt
my ribs but I laughed and yelled, Yes! The sorrel
started to dance under me again to tell me he was ready to go,
but I held him taut, because I would tell him when, where and
how we would travel.
Moving again, I rubbed his neck and encouraged him when he followed
my direction exactly, and cussed him hard and did a pop back on
the reins when he didnt, and made him perform again two,
three, four times or more till it suited me. Then I crowned him
with praise as I rubbed him between the ears and scratched his
neck and told him what a magnificent creature he was. And he began
to understand what I wanted with just the press of my knees or
touch of the reins or sound of my voice.
we moved slowly back to the barn, I knew Id never again
disrespect him by trying to ride him without a bridle, and I guessed
he might see me a little different the next time also. And we
moved together as one through the sage and high grass and sparse
cedars, as smoothly as a centaur.
O. Jones was raised in Texas, but has resided in Middle Tennessee
since 1978. With a lifelong interest in writing, he has taught
college English courses in Texas and Tennessee since 1974. Neil
has completed a book-length collection of stories based on the
quirky characters he knew and the challenges they faced in his
growing-up years in the 1950s and '60s in the South Oak Cliff
neighborhood of Dallas. His works have appeared in various print
and online venues, including Perceptions 2005, 2006; Southern
Humorists.com; and Southern Hum. Neil lives out in the country near Columbia, Tennessee.
Neil O. Jones